Today Microsoft released the final security patches for its most popular operating system ever. With the “April Patch Tuesday” update the software giant is effectively retiring Windows XP, a situation which many believe will open the door for hackers and other cyber-crime bad guys to get their hands on your data. To its credit, XP’s title as the golden child of PC operating systems is well-deserved. It has long been considered a stable, reliable workhorse, standing strong while newer systems all but fell by the wayside. But enough is enough, Microsoft seems to be saying, it’s time for everyone to move on–no more support, no more fixes, no more updates, no more patches.
If your computer is still running Microsoft’s most famous operating system ever, you are not alone. While it is already over twelve years old, Windows XP was way ahead of its younger Microsoft brethren in the race for customer loyalty. It’s estimated that nearly 30% of businesses across the globe are still using it on their computers. And the kinds of businesses most likely to be clinging to XP are financial institutions, healthcare providers, and educational facilities, all groups that could be severely compromised by invasive hacker malware.
So if you’re worried that Windows XP is going to retire and leave you vulnerable to all those hacker-type bad guys just waiting for a chance to steal your data… well, you have good reason. Ultimately, you’re just going to have to migrate to a newer operating system, a process which could prove slow and painful. But in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help minimize your risks. For example, disconnecting your PC from any networks you may be connected to would greatly reduce the chance of anyone being able to access your data. Restricting any connection to the internet, even such “necessities” as email and web-browsing, would essentially take your computer out of hackers’ reach. Remove CD or DVD drives to further isolate your system, and make sure that any anti-viral software or firewall software you may be using is as up-to-date as possible.
Microsoft says that they will continue to release smaller, limited updates until July 2015, but these fixes are expected to be of minimal impact to an operating system that is already woefully outdated. The simplest option, of course, is to upgrade your computer to Windows 7. If, that is, your computer is new enough and powerful enough to support its minimum requirements. If not, you’re probably going to be in the market for a new PC, or maybe even consider switching to a Mac. Either way it’s going to cost you some money, but remember the alternative is to put out a welcome mat for the entire hacker community.
So don’t worry, while Windows XP is finally going off to that fabled retirement home for old and tired operating systems, it doesn’t mean that you’re helpless against the bad guys. There will always be a newer, shiner alternative, though the transition may not exactly be pleasant. But don’t let it slide, take the steps you need to take to protect your data, and you’ll be able to survive the demise of Windows XP, and once again sleep well at night.
by Peter Barreda